Is it true that HDB penalises flat owners harshly if they fall behind in arrears?

    21 Jul 2013 |

Recently, there was an online posting by Mr Leong Sze Hian, “Mother with 2 children homeless in 2 weeks?”, portraying HDB as an organisation that is seemingly unsympathetic towards those who are unable to finance their mortgage loans.

We are aware of “Elsie’s” identity and the details of the case, and wish to highlight that not all the facts in Mr Leong’s article are accurate, as he has presented an incomplete, one-sided picture.

“Elsie” and her ex-husband first fell into housing arrears in March 2010, after “Elsie’s” ex-husband moved out of their 5-room flat and stopped servicing the monthly instalments. As Elsie was not working, she was unable to make the instalment payments on her own. During this period, “Elsie” had informed HDB that she would be selling the flat upon her divorce. However, after her divorce was finalised in 2011, “Elsie” and her ex-husband have been unable to reach a compromise on the division of the sales proceeds for the matrimonial flat, and this led to a further accumulation of the arrears.

In discussing “Elsie’s situation”, Mr Leong alleged that no one in HDB had advised her about her housing options. This is completely untrue. HDB has in place a proper arrears management process to ensure that families in difficulty are treated with due care and consideration. HDB also counsels such households on their alternative housing options. Only as a last resort would HDB take the step of acquiring their flat.

All this while, HDB has been liaising with “Elsie” and her ex-husband on how to settle their arrears. For example, HDB had assessed that “Elsie” would be able to afford a smaller flat with her share of the sales proceeds, and suggested to her to consider this option to relieve her financial burden. But “Elsie” only wanted to retain the proceeds for her own use, instead of committing herself to another more affordable flat.

Since the finalisation of the divorce in 2011, “Elsie” had also proved to be unwilling to take any positive action to resolve her housing issue or marital dispute with her ex-husband, despite HDB’s best efforts in advising her. By October 2012, “Elsie” and her ex-husband owed more than two years of arrears. HDB had to proceed with the Notice of Intention (NOI) for compulsory acquisition in October 2012. Allowing the arrears situation to worsen would not benefit them as interest costs are levied on the outstanding amount.

After receiving the NOI, her ex-husband paid off the arrears in full with his CPF savings in November 2012, and HDB did not proceed further with the acquisition action. However, “Elsie” did not take any action to apply for a variation of the Court Order to settle the division of the sales proceeds of the flat, and the arrears started to accumulate again. Despite HDB’s efforts in advising her, she continued to reject the options put forth to her. As it has become evident that ‘Elsie’ is unable to finance a 5-room flat on her own, we urge her to take personal responsibility in deciding on a viable option to prevent her arrears from mounting further.

HDB officers do devote considerable time to help each household who is in financial difficulties. Indeed, many situations are highly intricate and complex but every case is given its due care and attention.

Such one-sided, half-complete and inaccurate accounts circulated online create an atmosphere of confusion and mistrust. They do not help any family in difficulty to work productively with HDB to resolve their financial situation.